As family trees go, the one created inside Canterbury Cathedral nearly a thousand years ago is pretty impressive.

Monumental stained-glass windows feature nearly life-size figures that represent the ancestors of Christ. The lineup starts with Adam and runs through such memorable Old Testament men (and only men) as Noah and Abraham, along with less well-known folks such as Enoch and Rehoboam.

The colorfully translucent depictions embed ancestry right into the mighty cathedral's stone walls. Like a family album writ large, the patriarchs of the Christian church appear to help keep the soaring structure standing. Colorfully dappled sunlight transforms the vast interior into a mesmerizing space of shimmering magnificence. The power of history fuses with the power of art, making a politically potent spectacle.

Portions of six of those monumental windows are currently in an unusual exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, paired with an illuminated manuscript painted slightly earlier and a relatively short distance away. The St. Albans Psalter is a lavishly illustrated volume containing a Book of Psalms. It probably dates from about 50 years before the ambitious program of stained-glass ancestors, 86 in all, was begun in Canterbury.

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The Psalter is also generally regarded to be the first fully developed example of Romanesque art in England, the style having blossomed in continental Europe in the 11th century. Juxtaposed with the Canterbury windows, the show suggests how quickly, and thoroughly, the Romanesque pictorial language was established across the Channel.

The Norman Conquest surely helped.

Two epic events hover in the show's background: the fateful year 1066, when the invasion of England triggered profound social and cultural transformations in government, nobility, feudal structure, religious authority and more; and 100 years later, the murder of the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, which sent shock waves through medieval society.

At the Getty, the manuscript pages showing Christ's life are laid out directly opposite the ancestor windows. What made the juxtaposition possible are conservation programs coincidentally being undertaken simultaneously.

The Psalter, now kept in the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim, Germany, was unbound in 2006 and then brought to Los Angeles for further study and analysis. (It will soon be permanently rebound.) At Canterbury, several windows needed to be removed while repair work on the framing walls is underway. Getty curators Kristen Collins and Jeffrey Weaver had the bright idea of bringing St. Albans and Canterbury together.

Ironically, the small book's miniatures outshine the monumental windows. 

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Don't get me wrong: The stained glass is certainly impressive. The figures are composed from richly colored pieces of leaded glass whose details — the elaborate drapery of Noah's robes, say, or the intricate beard and lavish throne of his brash father, Lamech — are deftly painted. (The identity of the artists is uncertain.) Romanesque art is famous for compartmentalizing the forms of its subjects, assembling them like puzzle pieces to form a whole, so a panel made from interlocking glass is an ideal vehicle for the style.

The windows are also at something of a disadvantage in a museum exhibition. (When the show closes at the Getty on Feb. 2, they will travel to the Cloisters Museum in New York.) While it's remarkable, and rare, to have the opportunity to examine them up close, they were designed to be seen from a distance and within an elaborate architectural program.

Here, it's sort of like looking at a painting through a magnifying glass — enlightening, to be sure, if not exactly the experience that was intended. They are illuminated from behind, but artificial light, even and unmoving, further tamps down the environmental impact of windows normally enlivened by the vicissitudes of shifting sunlight.

The juxtaposition with the Psalter does remind us that we are looking at just about the only types of English Romanesque painting that remain. Wall paintings are mostly long gone, so paintings on glass and parchment have a lot to say.

Canterbury was Europe's gateway to England. St. Alban was Britain's first Christian martyr, his demise in a village just north of London ordered as part of a sweeping edict by Diocletian, the fourth century Roman emperor. The manuscript was probably commissioned for a nun at the cloister named for him. 

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The book, apparently trimmed down at some point in its long history, features sheets roughly the size of modern letter paper. A calendar chronicles the months on Earth and in the heavens, thanks to zodiac signs paired with pictures of daily labors (harvesting, slaughtering cattle, picking grapes, etc.). The nun, Christina of Markyate, was from a noble family, so the elegant labors in their decorative roundels function more as idealized spurs to humility than documentary records of back-breaking work.

Initials introducing each psalm are elaborately adorned. The best, such as a sinuous letter S whose undulations evoke the flow of water central to the accompanying text, are the epitome of the word made flesh.